We need to portray potatoes as a ‘sexy food’, according to the Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle.

Boyle was speaking at today’s National Potato Conference that was held in the Red Cow hotel.

Potato consumption has dropped in Ireland over the last 40 years. Figures from Bord Bia show that in 2015, the average consumption of potatoes by adults is 85kg/capita.

This compared to the 1970s when Irish people consumed 140kg/capita. Despite this, the potato is still Ireland’s number one carbohydrate with 106,058 packs of potatoes sold in 2014.

Boyle said that the ‘catastrophic’ drop in the consumption of potatoes is something to be deeply regretted and that it is of serious concern.

Boyle stressed that Teagasc’s focus has to be on driving productivity.

“Seed production needs a concerted effort in order for its potential to be recognised.

“Teagasc is conscious that it hasn’t been able to fill the needs of growers and it is in the process of appointing a tillage advisor for the north east.

“The potato acreage last year fell significantly to 8,100ha. That’s around 14% lower than it was in 2014,” he said.

‘Fundamental Change’

Jer Bergin, IFA National Chairman, opened today’s conference and said the new Grocery Regulations will have to lead to a fundamental change by retailers and merchants when it comes to paying their suppliers promptly.

Growers surveyed by IFA report they have to wait between 45 and 90 days for payment, with some having to wait beyond this.

“Primary producers are vulnerable and there is a serious obligation on both merchants and retailers to step up to the mark and comply with the new legislation, which provides for payment within 30 days as a standard provision.”

The regulations also include the provision of contracts, which will provide security to growers.

Bergin said the issue for growers is two-fold: the unsustainable farmgate price and the delay in receiving payment.

“Growers get less than 30% of the consumer price, but they carry 80% of the cost of getting potatoes to consumers. This imbalance is unacceptable and threatens Irish potato producers.”

The IFA National Chairman said pre-pack potatoes sell in the shops for five times the price (€1,500) per tonne paid to the producer, illustrating the huge gap that exists between what the consumer pays and the small share received by the grower.